Money to be spent on taxi industry's image

DRIVERS: Not happy with spend

Geraldine Gittens

THE Commission for Taxi Regulation (CTR) will spend up to €2.1million on the image of the industry.

The regulator's office will use the money to provide the public with information about the industry and cabs they are using.

The money will be used for advertising to keep taxi users informed and provide "public information and providing regulatory information to the industry," said a CTR spokesman.

But drivers are not happy with the legally enforceable €2m initiative.

Jerry Brennan, from SIPTU, said: "I do think it could be better spent. At this point, the state of the industry is very, very bad, and the industry certainly doesn't feel it's getting any service from [the Commission]."

He stressed that taxi drivers are knocking on doors of banks and lending agencies to upgrade their cars but are getting refused, while the Commission is splashing out on advertising.

"I was talking to one chap this morning who has been to seven different lending agencies because he's driving a beautifully-kept BMW which is over nine years old and can no longer be used in January."

The SIPTU spokesperson stressed that the Commission needs to focus on better enforcement in order to remove illegally operating taxi drivers from the streets.

"There are issues in relation to the number of staff they employ for enforcement duties. Nine enforcement officers cannot police or enforce any regulations."

"I think €2.1m would be better spent - if it was to be done - in relation to enforcement. The end result of [proper enforcement] is that a very large number of taxis disappear in whichever city or town they set up in."

The CTR is self-funded, primarily through drivers' licence fees. Taxi drivers pay €125 per year for vehicle licences, and €250 every five years for driver licences to the CTR.

It is currently tendering for a contract for creative agency services to the value of between €300,000 and €600,000, and media-buying services to the value of between €750,000 and €1,500,000.

A spokesperson for CTR said it has "a statutory requirement to undertake advertising from time to time, for the purposes of public information and providing regulatory information to the industry".

The spokesperson explained: "The Commission has utilised external agencies for creative agency services and media buying services since its establishment."

Aidan Moore, President of the National Taxi Drivers Union, said the money needs to be spent on helping wheelchair accessible taxis meet the required EU standards.

"To say I'm surprised is an understatement. They obviously feel they need some good press at this stage. I think it would be much better spent helping to update the wheelchair fleet."

"Current wheelchair vehicles will be off the road because they won't meet the European standards in 2012. But yet €2.1m is being spent for PR."